Mitch Menchaca has been named the new executive director for the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, effective December 10. Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher announced the news by press release on Thursday, October 25.
The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture is part of the Phoenix Arts Commission, created by the Phoenix City Council in 1985 to preserve the city's cultural heritage while furthering the arts in public and private sectors.
The executive director oversees public art, grants, cultural facilities, arts learning, and outreach. That includes working with an operating budget of about $4.7 million, plus funds generated through the city's percent-for-art program.
Menchaca was chosen following a national search, which called for “an experienced, innovative and collaborative leader" who could act as the city's chief advocate of arts and culture, by raising awareness and increasing participation in the arts.
Menchaca returns to Phoenix after leading the Local Arts Advancement Department at Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C., which promotes the transformative power of arts through advocacy, research, leadership, and community connections.
Most recently, Menchaca served as executive director for the Association of California Symphony Orchestras. His previous experience also includes serving as the senior director of grants and programs at Arizona Commission on the Arts, where he worked on grant making, program budgeting, and constituent relations.
Menchaca succeeds Gail Browne, who has served as executive director since March 2014. In July, Browne announced her plans to retire from the position by the end of the year.
"This is an opportune and ideal time, with changes happening around the city and with the city council," Browne told Phoenix New Times in July. "The work of this office is so important, and things are ripe for further change and growth."
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Browne notes that several projects launched during her term will likely continue after her retirement.
"Our office has been working on diversity, equity, and inclusion, in public arts and grant programs," Browne says. "There's still a lot of discussion, and I hope the next director will take that conversation to the next level."
She's also been coordinating conversations between representatives of various art districts, looking for ways they can collaborate on communicating their unique offerings to community members.
Now, Browne’s focus is helping the city transition to new arts leadership.
"I'm really excited about everything the Office of Arts and Culture has to offer," Browne says. "There's a lot more work to be done to assure that we are responding to the needs of all the people who live in Phoenix."